Just after giving public officials a stern warning on corruption and pledging earlier that no corrupt official would be allowed in his government, President George Weah is set to face his first test in his appointment of public officials.
Among the first batch of officials named for ministerial positions is Cllr. Charles Gibson, who has been designated to take over as Minister of Justice.
Reports about the Justice Minister-designate, however, do not clear him to take over such a key ministry, one of the nation’s primary INTEGRITY institutions, designed by the Constitution of the Republic to administer JUSTICE and transparency in government and in the Republic. It is also charged with the sacred (holy, consecrated) responsibility of helping the President of Liberia to fight corruption, which is known to be endemic (rampant, widespread) in Liberia.
According to our Judicial Correspondent, Abednego Davis, Cllr. Charles Gibson has been suspended by the Supreme Court from practicing law in Liberia because he duped one of his clients, Anwar A. Saoud, of US$25,400.
Following an investigation by the Liberia Supreme Court’s Grievance and Ethics Committee, our Reporter said Justice Minister-designate Charles Gibson was charged with misleading his client on whose behalf he had instituted a series of lawsuits to recover loans and other obligations from customers, from which he should have been able to account for the US$25,400 he earlier collected. But the records show that Counselor Gibson was unable to account for this money, hence the verdict by the Grievance Committee against him, approved by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
In addition to the two-month suspension of Counselor Charles Gibson’s license, the Supreme Court imposed a two-month ban on him from the practice of law in the Republic.
Interestingly, Cllr. Gibson, apparently upon hearing through the grapevine that he was scheduled to become the next Justice Minister, reportedly issued on January 17, 2018, a manager’s check of US$25,400 in Liberian dollars to restitute the amount due Mr. Saoud, since a ban was placed on Cllr. Charles Gibson on February 24, 2017.
In his inaugural speech last Monday, January 22, at the Samuel K. Doe Sports Complex, President George M. Weah was emphatic on the issue of corruption, perhaps the only issue that the public can hold him by for promising to fight without compromise.
President Weah declared, “I further believe that the overwhelming mandate I received from the Liberian people is a mandate to end corruption in public service. I promise to deliver on this mandate. As officials of Government, it is time to put the interest of our people above our own selfish interests. It is time, to be honest with our people. Though corruption is a habit among our people, we must end it; we must pay civil servants a living wage so that corruption is not an excuse for taking what is not theirs. Those who do not refrain from enriching themselves at the expense of the people – the law will take its course. I say today that you will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”
Prior to making that utterance, a civil society group, Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), had begun propagating on billboards urging President George Weah and the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) to keep and deliver their campaign promises.
This is an indication that every promise made is still fresh in the minds of the Liberian people and other stakeholders, that they are highly anticipating to see fulfilled.
The enormous task of fighting endemic corruption, therefore, must start with the appointment process, especially with the Justice Minister-designate.
Justice, according to the Cambridge Dictionary, means the quality of being just; conformity to the principles of righteousness and rectitude in all things, strict performance of moral obligations; practical conformity to human or divine law; integrity in the dealings of men with each other.
Holding onto this definition and your promise to fight and end corruption, Mr. President, moral judgment will not conform to the appointment of Cllr. Gibson, whose testimony from the highest court of the land is marred by corrupt comportment.
What assurances can Anwar and the public have that Cllr. Gibson would have paid the money if the issue of prospective appointment had not surfaced? Apparently, he would have remained mute had he not been appointed. Besides, the hasty issuance of a manager’s check in compliance with the court’s mandate to restitute the money does not in any way show that the Justice Minister-designate is honest.
He rather undertook a hypocritical act to set false impression.
Mr. President, we believe you were aware of party solidarity and tribal and regional connections when you made a promise to fight and end corruption in Liberia. There was no partiality in your speech. You rather made a promise that you intended to create an impact on all Liberians regardless of tribal background, social status or religion.
It is a critical moment for you this time, President Weah, as you make appointments in government. We hope and pray that you will be credible and impartial in your decisions to appointment people with good moral conduct and reject those without.
The case of Cllr. Charles Gibson is your first test.